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Fatima Zainel's family lost everything escaping the war in Iraq. But, she was never allowed to grieve, as in Muslim culture, depression is a sign that one is ungrateful for the sacrifices her immigrant parents made to create a better life for her in America. So, she often isolated herself in her bedroom to cry. Around her family, she would suffer in silence so her relatives wouldn't suffer because of her.
For a long time, Fatima didn't think she deserved a better life. She decided her only option was to forgive those who hurt her, or she would completely fall apart. Eventually, Fatima focused on starting a food pantry to help needy, low-income families in her neighborhood. She also became a Community Youth Ambassador for the Portland Parks Department to encourage new Portlanders to visit the city's green spaces. Fatima also developed a passion for modeling, fashion and makeup. In 2019, she was the first Miss Oregon USA contestant to compete wearing a hijabi.